Purpose: Chemerin (retinoic acid receptor responder 2, RARRES2) is an endogenous leukocyte chemoattractant that recruits innate immune cells through its receptor, ChemR23. RARRES2 is widely expressed in nonhematopoietic tissues and often downregulated across multiple tumor types compared with normal tissue. Recent studies show that augmenting chemerin in the tumor microenvironment significantly suppresses tumor growth, in part, by immune effector cells recruitment. However, as tumor cells express functional chemokine/chemoattractant receptors that impact their phenotype, we hypothesized that chemerin may have additional, tumor-intrinsic effects. Experimental Design: We investigated the effect of exogenous chemerin on human prostate and sarcoma tumor lines. Key signaling pathway components were elucidated using qPCR, Western blotting, siRNA knockdown, and specific inhibitors. Functional consequences of chemerin treatment were evaluated using in vitro and in vivo studies.
Results: We show for the first time that human tumors exposed to exogenous chemerin significantly upregulate PTEN expression/ activity, and concomitantly suppress programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) expression. CMKLR1 knockdown abrogated chemerin-induced PTEN and PD-L1 modulation, exposing a novel CMKLR1/ PTEN/PD-L1 signaling cascade. Targeted inhibitors suggested signaling was occurring through the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway. Chemerin treatment significantly reduced tumor migration, while significantly increasing T-cell–mediated cytotoxicity. Chemerin treatment was as effective as both PD-L1 knockdown and the anti–PD-L1 antibody, atezolizumab, in augmenting T-cell–mediated tumor lysis. Forced expression of chemerin in human DU145 tumors significantly suppressed in vivo tumor growth, and significantly increased PTEN and decreased PD-L1 expression. Conclusions: Collectively, our data show a novel link between chemerin, PTEN, and PD-L1 in human tumor lines, which may have a role in improving T-cell–mediated immunotherapies.